Understanding the Earth's Composition with Neutrino Oscillations

Beverly Lowell, Dr. André de Gouvêa

The CIERA REU summer students at Yerkes Observatory


While our understanding of the cosmos has improved dramatically in the last decades, we still only have limited knowledge of the inside of our own planet. In particular, we only have indirect information regarding the composition or size of the Earth's core. We do, however, know neutrinos interact with electrons and therefore their oscillations change as they propagate through matter. We theoretically examine how solar neutrinos propagating through the Earth can offer a look into the composition of its layers. We investigate if neutrinos can detect the Earth's core by numerically calculating the probability of finding an electron-neutrino and adjusting parameters such as electron density and the radius of the core. We determine that changing both of these parameters significantly affect the probability, such that neutrinos could be used experimentally to detect the size of a hard, dense core.